Assembly leader fails to nominate local resident for turbine siting board

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Senate leader picks Randy Atwater, president of Barker Central School, for board reviewing Lighthouse Wind

YATES – One of the two local residents who will serve on siting board for the wind turbine project in Yates and Somerset has been named.

Randy Atwater, president of the Barker Board of Education, was appointed by John Flanagan, majority leader of the State Senate.

However, the other local resident was to be named by Carl Heastie, speaker of the State Assembly. But Heastie didn’t act on the matter, an “abdication of his duties,” said State Sen. Robert Ortt.

It will now fall on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pick someone for the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. That board will review the proposed Lighthouse Wind project, which includes up to 71 wind turbines in Yates and Somerset.

“The speaker of the Assembly chose not to do his job,” Ortt said today following a Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Flanagan was charged with picking one of the members, based on four submitted names from Ortt. The local state senator passed along four names of people nominated by Niagara County officials and Somerset Town Supervisor Dan Englert.

Besides Atwater, Cathie Orr, Thomas Staples and Robert Damon were nominated. Orr has been one of the proposed wind project’s loudest critics.

The Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment includes five state officials and two people from the local project area. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley passed along to Heastie four names of people from Yates who were submitted by Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard, and John Belson, the Yates town supervisor until Jan. 1.

The four nominated from Yates include Russell Martino, Cynthia Hellert, Glenn Maid and Jeffrey Oakes.

Hawley said he called Heastie’s office several times to press him to name one of the board’s members, but Heastie didn’t act before the deadline.

Hawley and Ortt have been critical of the loss of “home rule” on the project, with the final decision on land use made by the state instead of a local board. As part of a new Article 10 process, the decision for siting large-scale energy projects in New York rests with the Siting Board.

The five state representatives include the chairman of the Department of Public Service, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, commissioner of the Department of Health, chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the commissioner of Economic Development.

“I’m against this process,” Ortt said today.

The Siting Board wouldn’t be officially convened until Apex Clean Energy submits a final application for the project in Yates and Somerset. Company officials say they are working to submit that application this summer.